Robots, Spiders, Hands

Should search robots/spiders replace, or simply augment, the searches you perform by hand? If you are a recruiter or staffing professional, you may already use search robots to sleuth through the Internet to find resumes. You give them search criteria, set them off to work, and go about your business doing other things until they are done. Your search results may vary, depending on a variety of circumstances. However, should you use search robots rather than search by hand? Ultimately, whether you choose to use a robot depends on a number of things, including your staff limitations and sourcing objectives. Are you low on headcount? Do you just need resumes? Or, do you have dedicated Internet recruiters who really should develop searching/sleuthing skills? If you lack enough employees, or if you simply want a lot of resumes, it might be worth your time to use a robot. A number have been mentioned by recruiters in recent weeks on the ERE mailings:

  1. Infoseek Express is free
  2. Article Continues Below
  3. Copernic 98 is free.
  4. E-Target 98 costs about $90.00.
  5. WebMole costs about $298.00.
  6. The ITTA Pro Active Recruiter has a number of services for prices that vary.

There are others, but these are the ones that come recommended by a number of Internet recruiters. But are these critters really effective? Unfortunately — for all of their benefits-robots have serious limitations, which raises a number of questions. If you turn them loose on the newsgroups, for example, you are limited to the number of newsgroups your ISP subscribes to. There are well over 70,000 newsgroups — perhaps 600 staffing-related newsgroups. How many might your ISP be missing? Also, wherever they go, robots can return a lot of junk. You may have to sift through hundreds of resumes to find the few with value. So, does a robot really save you time when you have to clean up after it? Or, if a robot fails to capture a candidate, might another recruiter or HR department in your area (perhaps sourcing for the same job) find the candidate you missed? Finally, as search engine methodologies improve and vary, how quickly will the robots be able to adapt? For those who lack headcount and need lots of resumes, you may avoid having to answer such dubious questions by leveraging services that specialize in resume searching. There are several, but Netsurfers is the best I’ve found-both in terms of quality return, and cost. Netsurfers combines hand sleuthing with robotic searches, what they might call “focused automation.” They also sift through search results to filter out the things you might not want. They have been doing this for five years, and do quite well at it. The best thing is, they are much less expensive other services. But should you use robots or services if you have dedicated Internet recruiters? In our experience, where we do have dedicated staff, manual searching is more effective than the spiders — though we may use robots or services in conjunction with manual searches (Netsurfers). Searching is not only a mechanical process: it provides an opportunity for the recruiter to learn. We encourage our sourcing recruiters to search manually because they really LEARN the job for which they are sourcing. This makes them more effective overall. We believe that Internet recruiters who become too dependent on search robots will not only suffer from limited search results, they will fail to fully develop their skills. This is not to suggest that all robot/spidering tools are ineffective, and in fact they will likely prove to become more effective as time goes on. But when they do, we will STILL have our people search manually – in conjunction with a robot or service of choice, of course – just to learn and stay sharp.

Paul Westmoreland ( is co-founder of Worldlink Internet Media and currently manages the sourcing program for a region of EDP Contract Services, the IT staffing arm of TAC Worldwide Companies. He likes to play screaming blues guitar in his spare time, and enjoys writing songs, poems and short fiction.